I was listening to a recent Media Hacks podcast (episode 10) where C.C. Chapman, Hugh McGuire, Julien Smith and host Mitch Joel discussed piracy of books online and music. Music piracy has been a hot topic for a while now and the music industry just does not get it.
Recently, there was a case where a woman was fined $1.9 million for illegally downloading 24 songs. That’s $80,000 per song. Not sure where they got those numbers but if you ask me, she didn’t do even close to that amount of damage because chances are that she wouldn’t have bought those songs in the first place. I can almost guarantee though that she in one way or another influenced others to buy those same songs and thereby promoted the songs for free. Either through recommendation, discussing or singing the songs or even playing them in her car while giving someone a lift.
The music industry has the same opportunity now to offer their music for free with ads or branding in between songs and let the advertisers pay the difference. Just as Hulu is doing for TV shows, if they make it easy to watch legally, even with a commercial or two, people are willing to sit through the commercials. These people then go on to discuss the latest shows at the water cooler the next day.
The benefit to the music industry is that these same people that are not paying for their listening rights are the ones that are promoting the music to their friends.
C.C. brought up a very good point that if a child wants to download a song and doesn’t have a credit card, there is no chance for him to legally acquire the song. People will be less likely to pirate music if it was easier to download it legally in the first place.
Remember when we used to tape songs right off the radio and they had little bits of the radio announcer at the beginning and end of each song? Even when it was a top 10 at 10 songs marathon, there was still a little bit of speaking as the songs faded into each other. Fans shared their music with their friends and true fans went out and bought the tape (or CD) so they could own a good quality version of their own.
We are now in the information age where information and products are very often free. You can find almost anything online and companies are giving away advice and industry secrets for free, hoping that if you need specialized help, you will be back as a paying customer. The music industry needs to figure out a way to do the same. They can make their money off merchandising, concerts, ads and I’m sure thousands of other ways. The main thing is, they’re not doing themselves a favor by suing their fans.